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Science lesson that will bear fruit

The Inter-Mountain photo by Dan Geohagan Tracey Valach, center, health educator with the WVU Randolph County Extension office, shows North Elementary School students Thursday how to plant seeds for apple and pear trees.

ELKINS — Students at North Elementary School were presented with an opportunity Thursday to learn about the benefits of learning to grow food, as opposed to only growing flora that doesn’t produce food.

With guidance from Tracey Valach, health educator with the WVU Randolph County Extension office, elementary schools in Randolph County have been adding natural elements, including raised bed gardens and stepping stones, to their playgrounds.

Participating in this project in addition to North are Jennings Randolph, Beverly, Third Ward, George Ward and Coalton elementary schools.

“I work in all the schools in the county,” Valach said. “There were six schools in the county that identified that they wanted edible landscaping at their school campus. So basically what we did was created a crowd funding site which is through the WVU Foundation.”

The next step in the process is to plant edible landscaping that will provide not only shade and beauty, but also food for the school cafeteria. Schools are seeking donations to purchase thornless blackberry bushes, blueberry bushes, apple trees and pear trees. Students from each school have measured to determine how many of each can be housed on their playgrounds.

“At this school in particular, we have chosen to plant apples and pears,” Valach said at North Thursday afternoon. “Beverly will be having blueberries.”

The fruits planted by the students will be available for them to freely pick and eat. The program is based on the donations that are received through a website set up by WVU Extension.

“For me as their nutrition instructor, having an interaction with what is growing and what they’re eating is important,” Valach said.

The program is continuing to grow with donations through https://advancing.wvu.edu/project/15530.

“Please help us give elementary students in Randolph County a science lesson that will bear fruit,” the website states.

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